A trial of 59 defendants accused of manslaughter and undermining transport safety after dozens of people were killed when the Morandi Bridge in Genoa, Italy, collapsed almost four years ago has been postponed until September after the first hearing on Thursday lasted less than two hours.
Judge Paolo Lepri said the first hearing had ended “resoundingly prematurely” and that the second was scheduled for 12 September, during which judges would decide on requests made by the civil claimants.
The Morandi Bridge, part of a major arterial route connecting east and west Genoa, and the Lombardy and Piedmont regions with Liguria and the French border, collapsed during a storm on 14 August 2018, sending 43 people, the youngest an eight-year-old boy, falling 45 metres to their deaths in one of the worst tragedies in modern Italian history.
Those on trial include former bosses and technical officers for Autostrade per l’Italia (ASPI), the highways company, and SPEA, its maintenance unit, as well as current and former transport ministry managers and civil servants.
The Morandi Bridge had been plagued with structural issues since its construction in the late 1960s, leading to expensive maintenance.
The prosecution argued that many of the defendants were aware that the bridge was at risk of collapse but did nothing to prevent it from happening.
However, the lawyer for the former Austostrade chief executive, Giovanni Castellucci, who is among the defendants, said the trial would show that the bridge collapsed not as a result of maintenance negligence but due to an original “construction defect”.
“This is why 43 people died in a terrifying and absurd way,” Giovanni Paolo Accinni told reporters outside the Genoa tribunal, the LaPresse news agency reported.
The remains of the structure were demolished and a new bridge, designed by the architect Renzo Piano, was inaugurated in July 2020.
Relatives of the deceased, who leave flowers by the bridge on the 14th day of each month, have had a long wait for the case to reach court.
Egle Possetti, whose sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephew were among those killed and who leads a committee of relatives of victims, told reporters before Thursday’s hearing: “We have many expectations; this process must lead to justice and truth for our families and for Italians.
“We are convinced that the prosecution case is very strong, and should this lead to a stalemate, even with these strong elements, it means that as a nation we no longer have hope.”
Despite their former managers being on trial, Autostrade and Spea will escape the judicial process after reaching a plea bargain that involved paying the state €30m.
Hearings of the trial in the Genoa court have been scheduled until 19 July 2023.